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Post-nasal drip

4-minute read

Key facts

  • ‘Post-nasal drip’ is when mucus from your nose or sinuses drips down the back of your throat.
  • Common causes of post-nasal drip are viral infections, sinus infections and hay fever.
  • Treatment of post-nasal drip usually involves treating the cause.
  • You can relieve your symptoms by drinking lots of fluids and avoiding irritants such as cigarette smoke.

What is post-nasal drip?

‘Post-nasal drip’ is when mucus from your nose or sinuses drips down the back of your throat.

Post-nasal drip can sometimes cause a cough.

What causes post-nasal drip?

The most common causes of post-nasal drip are:

  • viral infections in your nose and throat (such as a cold)
  • hay fever — inflammation of the inside lining of your nose, also called ‘allergic rhinitis’
  • sinusitis —inflammation of the hollow spaces in the bones of your face (sinuses)
  • cold air
  • some medicines

Other causes are asthma and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD).

Rarely, post-nasal drip can be a sign of a foreign object in the nose (usually in children).

What are the symptoms of post-nasal drip?

Symptoms of post-nasal drip include:

  • blocked or runny nose
  • a cough
  • a ‘tickle’ in your throat or a sore throat
  • needing to clear your throat regularly
  • a lot of mucus in your throat
  • a hoarse voice

People with post-nasal drip can also get bad breath.

How can I treat post-nasal drip?

The treatment for post-nasal drip depends on its cause.

If your post-nasal drip is caused by hay fever, then antihistamines, decongestant medicines and steroid nasal sprays can help relieve your symptoms. A saline nasal spray can also help.

You can prevent hay fever by avoiding substances you are allergic to. If you don’t know what you are allergic to, speak with your doctor who can refer you for allergy tests.

If your post-nasal drip is caused by sinusitis from a bacterial infection, your doctor might prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection.

If your post-nasal drip is caused by reflux or asthma, you should talk with your doctor about treatment.

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What can I do to ease my symptoms of post-nasal drip?

Some things you can do to help ease symptoms are:

  • Drink more fluids (preferably water) to thin out the mucus.
  • Use a saline nasal spray. Ask your pharmacist which one will suit you best.
  • Gargle with salty water 3 or 4 times a day.
  • Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
  • Avoid substances that cause dehydration, such as alcohol and caffeine, as these can worsen your symptoms.
  • Avoid common irritants such as cigarette smoke.

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Last reviewed: August 2022

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